Level II scour analysis for Bridge 43 (CHESVT00110043) on State Highway 11, crossing the Middle Branch Williams River, Chester, Vermont

Open-File Report 97-342

Prepared in cooperation with Vermont Agency of Transportation and Federal Highway Administration



This report provides the results of a detailed Level II analysis of scour potential at structure CHESVT00110043 on State Route 11 crossing the Middle Branch of the Williams River, Chester, Vermont (figures 1–8). A Level II study is a basic engineering analysis of the site, including a quantitative analysis of stream stability and scour (U.S. Department of Transportation, 1993). Results of a Level I scour investigation also are included in Appendix E of this report. A Level I investigation provides a qualitative geomorphic characterization of the study site. Information on the bridge, gleaned from Vermont Agency of Transportation (VTAOT) files, was compiled prior to conducting Level I and Level II analyses and is found in Appendix D.

The site is principally in the Green Mountain section of the New England physiographic province in southeastern Vermont. The 13.7-mi2 drainage area is in a predominantly rural and forested basin. In the vicinity of the study site, the surface cover is predominantly forest except for the area downstream and right of the bridge which is pasture.

In the study area, the Middle Branch of the Williams River has a sinuous channel with a slope of approximately 0.01 ft/ft, an average channel top width of 77 ft and an average bank height of 8 ft. The channel bed material ranges from gravel to boulder with a median grain size (D50) of 76.6 mm (0.251 ft). The geomorphic assessment at the time of the Level I and Level II site visit on September 11, 1996, indicated that the reach was laterally unstable. Lateral instability was evident from the several point bars and cut banks located through the study reach.

The State Route 11 crossing of the Middle Branch of the Williams River is a 76-ft-long, two-lane bridge consisting of two 37-foot concrete Tee-beam spans (Vermont Agency of Transportation, written communication, March 29, 1995). The bridge is supported by vertical, concrete abutments with wingwalls. The channel is skewed approximately 35 degrees to the opening. The computed opening-skew-to-roadway was 30 degrees but the historical records indicate this angle is 25 degrees.

Scour protection measures at the site consist of type-1 stone fill (less than 12 inches diameter) along the downstream banks and the upstream right wing wall. Type-2 (less than 36 inches diameter) stone fill protection is noted on the upstream and downstream left wingwalls and upstream along the left bank. Additional details describing conditions at the site are included in the Level II Summary and Appendices D and E.

Scour depths and recommended rock rip-rap sizes were computed using the general guidelines described in Hydraulic Engineering Circular 18 (Richardson and others, 1995). Total scour at a highway crossing is comprised of three components: 1) long-term streambed degradation; 2) contraction scour (due to accelerated flow caused by a reduction in flow area at a bridge) and; 3) local scour (caused by accelerated flow around piers and abutments). Total scour is the sum of the three components. Equations are available to compute depths for contraction and local scour and a summary of the results of these computations follows.

Contraction scour for all modelled flows ranged from 0.0 to 1.5 ft. The worst-case contraction scour occurred at the 500-year discharge. Abutment scour ranged from 7.2 to 10.7 ft. The worst-case abutment scour occurred at the 500-year discharge for the right abutment. Pier scour ranged from 7.3 to 8.6 ft. The worst-case pier scour occurred at the 500-year discharge. Additional information on scour depths and depths to armoring are included in the section titled “Scour Results”. Scoured-streambed elevations, based on the calculated scour depths, are presented in tables 1 and 2. A cross-section of the scour computed at the bridge is presented in figure 8. Scour depths were calculated assuming an infinite depth of erosive material and a homogeneous particle-size distribution.

It is generally accepted that the Froehlich equation (abutment scour) gives “excessively conservative estimates of scour depths” (Richardson and others, 1995, p. 47). Usually, computed scour depths are evaluated in combination with other information including (but not limited to) historical performance during flood events, the geomorphic stability assessment, existing scour protection measures, and the results of the hydraulic analyses. Therefore, scour depths adopted by VTAOT may differ from the computed values documented herein.

Study Area

Additional publication details

Publication type:
Publication Subtype:
USGS Numbered Series
Level II scour analysis for Bridge 43 (CHESVT00110043) on State Highway 11, crossing the Middle Branch Williams River, Chester, Vermont
Series title:
Open-File Report
Series number:
Year Published:
U.S. Geological Survey
Publisher location:
Pembroke, NH
iv, 50 p.
United States
Other Geospatial:
Williams River